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A human volunteer study to assess the impact of confectionery sweeteners on the gut microbiota composition

  • Emma Beards (a1), Kieran Tuohy (a1) and Glenn Gibson (a1)


Sweeteners are being sourced to lower the energetic value of confectionery including chocolates. Some, especially non-digestible carbohydrates, may possess other benefits for human health upon their fermentation by the colonic microbiota. The present study assessed non-digestible carbohydrate sweeteners, selected for use in low-energy chocolates, for their ability to beneficially modulate faecal bacterial profiles in human volunteers. Forty volunteers consumed a test chocolate (low-energy or experimental chocolate) containing 22·8 g of maltitol (MTL), MTL and polydextrose (PDX), or MTL and resistant starch for fourteen consecutive days. The dose of the test chocolates was doubled every 2 weeks over a 6-week period. Numbers of faecal bifidobacteria significantly increased with all the three test treatments. Chocolate containing the PDX blend also significantly increased faecal lactobacilli (P = 0·00 001) after the 6 weeks. The PDX blend also showed significant increases in faecal propionate and butyrate (P = 0·002 and 0·006, respectively). All the test chocolates were well tolerated with no significant change in bowel habit or intestinal symptoms even at a daily dose of 45·6 g of non-digestible carbohydrate sweetener. This is of importance not only for giving manufacturers a sugar replacement that can reduce energetic content, but also for providing a well-tolerated means of delivering high levels of non-digestible carbohydrates into the colon, bringing about improvements in the biomarkers of gut health.

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Corresponding author

*Corresponding author: Kieran Tuohy, fax +44 118 931 0080, email


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A human volunteer study to assess the impact of confectionery sweeteners on the gut microbiota composition

  • Emma Beards (a1), Kieran Tuohy (a1) and Glenn Gibson (a1)


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